CABINET was rocked by dramatic clashes last week over the supply of the wrong type of fertiliser from South Africa which has become another political bat
tleground for President Robert Mugabe’s succession struggle.
High-level sources said the clashes between Vice-President Joice Mujuru and a number of government officials on the one hand and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono on the other started at the National Economic Recovery Council (Nerc) meeting on Monday where the fertiliser saga was tabled for discussion.
Mujuru and Gono — together with Zanu PF politburo member Emmerson Mnangagwa — are now seen as the main contenders to succeed Mugabe.
Gono was said to have stormed out of the Nerc meeting in exasperation as the political fracas got out of hand amid threats and insults.
Secretary to the Cabinet Misheck Sibanda and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Director-General Happyton Bonyongwe, sources said, tried to intervene to stop the clashes via secret notes to Mujuru as the Nerc chair in the heat of the moment but were ignored. The CIO and Nerc compiled separate reports to Mugabe on the same issue.
The drama spilt over to cabinet meetings on Wednesday and Thursday at which Mugabe was said to have “hit the roof” because of the internal wrangling that is further dividing his embattled government and Zanu PF.
Cabinet meetings are usually held on Tuesdays but last week there were two meetings on Wednesday and Thursday to debate the fertiliser issue. Cabinet met on Wednesday because Mugabe was away in China. Sources say Mugabe no longer allows cabinet to meet in his absence as he used to because he no longer trusts his deputies and ministers.
Cabinet also had an emergency session on Thursday in the Jacaranda Room at the Rainbow Towers Hotel because the issue of fertiliser was not conclusively discussed the day before. The reason the meeting was held at the hotel was that Mugabe wanted to launch the 99-year leases at the Harare International Conference Centre soon after.
It was said a report prepared by Nerc on the fertiliser issue was tabled for discussion at the Wednesday cabinet meeting and Gono was slammed by a number of Mujuru’s allies.
“Some ministers angrily said they were fed up with Gono,” a source said.
After the Wednesday cabinet Mugabe met Gono and it was decided the governor should give his side of the story to cabinet on Thursday.
“The tables turned against Mujuru on Thursday after Gono had presented his lengthy report exonerating himself. Mugabe said after that meeting it was a ‘good show’ by Gono,” a source said. “Mugabe became very angry with Mujuru and some ministers. But Gono walked out of the Thursday meeting with a broad smile.”
However, Gono had a torrid time before wriggling off the hook. During the Nerc meeting Mujuru opened the floodgates for a number of government officials to attack him.
Sources said Gono came under fire from a group of officials including the Economic Development minister Rugare Gumbo, Deputy Finance minister David Chapfika, Agriculture permanent secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa, and Industry and International Trade permanent secretary Christian Katsande, who accused him of not consulting on issues. He is widely accused in government of behaving like a prime minister.